QUINCY — The lauded crown jewel of Quincy's golf community faces an uncertain future as members of the Quincy Park District say they are open to exploring other uses for Scotty Glasgow's Westview Golf Course, which opened in May 1949.
"In real simple terms, the problem is not management or all of the detailed numbers, it is a demand problem," said Roger Lennerts, a Park District commissioner.
According to data provided by the Quincy Park District, over the last 15 years the number of golfers playing the 27-hole course has fallen from 50,000 in 2004 to fewer than 30,000 in 2019. Some advocates of the course say weather has played a factor.
Lennerts and others on the park board say they don't agree with that.
"We have not had bad weather for 15 years in a row," Lennerts said. "It is that golf has a demand issue and that demand continues to drop. We have seen it with the swimming pool and other things."
Quincy Park District Commission President John Frankenhoff and Executive Director Rome Frericks acknowledged that while the golf course remains profitable, its profitably has decreased.
Quincy Park District Director of Business Services Don Hilgenbrinck said during the commission's Wednesday meeting that the golf course made slightly more than $59,000 last year. The previous year the golf course's profits exceeded $75,000.
"I would point out that the 2020 budget is based on 30,000 rounds, and if we fall short of that again, then the bottom line at the end of the year is likely going to be in the negative again," Frankenhoff said. "How long can we sustain those negative numbers and draining the reserves, using more and more tax dollars to keep the course open?"
After the meeting, Frericks said that while he is concerned about the decline in golfers, he thought significant changes were not imminent for Westview.
"Westview is the crown jewel of Quincy," Frericks said. "We want to maintain it and keep it open for everybody. Right now, we are making a profit, and Westview is sustaining itself and paying itself, which is a good feeling, especially when you are talking to other communities such as Decatur Park District or Peoria Park District, where they are making the difficult decision to close not just one, but two courses in their communities."
According to the National Golf Foundation, an estimated 800 golf courses have closed in the last decade. That number now includes the Sinnissippi Golf Course in Rockford, the Scovill Golf Course in Decatur, and the Crane Creek and Donovan golf courses in Peoria.
Park District Commissioner Bob Gough said he thought the Bow Lake Golf Course in Barry was subdividing portions of its property adjoining the course for housing.
"I would reckon and assume that (Norwoods Golf Course in) Hannibal (Mo.) and (Arrowhead Heights Golf Course) in Camp Point are at the same point as we are," Gough said. "I would imagine that they are struggling, too."
Park District Commissioner Vicki Dempsey asked what future uses Westview, at 2150 S. 36th, might serve.
Multiple members of the Park District Commission said the course could be converted into a housing development or rented or sold for agricultural use.
The National Golf Foundation also thinks the number of golfers nationwide has fallen nationwide, with some estimates of a 15% decline in the last decade.
Frericks said Quincy's golfing community has mirrored the national trend.
"The interest (in golf) has dropped," Frericks said. "The golfers are getting older and not a lot of young people are taking up golf."
Ultimately, members of the Park District's governing body and administration say it is too early to be mourning the potential closing of Westview.
"What we are hoping to do is to slow down, maintain the course as best we can and hope that Mother Nature cooperates so that we can see what our true numbers really are at Westview," Frericks said. "We are going to wait to see what our numbers are in six months and then maybe come up with a committee that can get together to come up with some ideas on what to do with the golf course."
Frericks reiterated that no major changes to Westview would be made this year.
In other business, the Park District Commissioners approved spending $31,700 for the design and engineering of a new maintenance building at All America Park. Officials say the bid details for construction will be released in March, with hope of awarding the bid in April. Once completed, the building will replace one built in the 1960s, which officials say is too small for the park's larger equipment.
The Park District also heard a report from Hilgenbrinck on the conversion of the park district's electricity to LED lighting, which he said has reduced the park district's energy bill by more than a third.
For example, the Park District's main office went from 96,000 kilowatt hours per year to 49,000 kilowatt hours per year. He said Westview's electricity usage went from 226,000 kilowatt hours per year to 98,000 kilowatts per year.